Christian Ferras / Zino Francescatti / Ida Haendel

La Fête à Stradivarius, Vol. 1

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La Fête à Stradivarius (Party for Stradivarius), a 2009 release on the Tahra Tah label, is a two-disc set whose binding characteristic is -- you guessed it -- that each of the violin soloists plays on a violin created by the great Italian master Antonio Stradivarius. Each of the recordings, consisting of violin concertos of Mozart (K. 218 and K. 219), Brahms, and Mendelssohn, were originally produced in the mid- to late-'50s with some of the most celebrated and respected violinists of the time. The difficulty with the instruments themselves being the center of attention for such an album is the overall sound quality, which is less than stellar. Even after remastering, neither the soloists nor orchestras produce a warm, rich sound that truly celebrates the sound of the Stradivari violins; there are far more numerous modern recordings that better capture the myriad shades of color that his instruments are capable of producing. If, however, listeners are interested in the album for purely historical value, then they are not likely to be disappointed. From Francescatti's mercurial Mendelssohn concerto to de Vito's powerful, romantic Brahms concerto, to Ida Haendel's vivacious Mozart, each of the soloists on the album is a true master of his/her craft. The discs miss the mark, however, in their attempt to highlight the capabilities of the instruments themselves.

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